2.8 Variation across provinces


Oil and gas production is very uneven in Canada with Alberta responsible for well above half of the country’s production of these fuels over the past 20 years, its share reaching 80 % in 2019. Saskatchewan and Newfoundland and Labrador have extracted most of the rest of crude oil (Table 2.6), while British Columbia has accounted for most of the natural gas production outside of Alberta (Table 2.7). 

Alberta’s oil production has more than doubled over the period, outpacing by far the production growth in other provinces. The situation is different for natural gas, where a decrease in Alberta’s production was offset by British Columbia’s more than doubling its production, which went up to represent 27 % of Canada’s in 2019. 

Some 85% of coal production takes place in Alberta and British Columbia (NRCAN 2021), although confidentiality issues prevent a more detailed breakdown. Natural gas liquids are primarily produced in Alberta and Ontario.

Table 2.6 – Crude oil production, by province (PJ) #

Source: Statistics Canada 2021a

Table 2.7 – Natural gas production, by province (PJ) #

Source: Statistics Canada 2021a

Provinces also show major variations in their electricity profiles (Figure 2.4). For instance, while hydroelectricity production dominates nationally, coal-fired generation is still important in a handful of provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick). At least some natural gas is used for electricity generation in all the provinces except Prince Edward Island, although the quantity of the electricity thus generated varies widely, ranging from 17 GWh in Manitoba to 38,930 GWh in Alberta. Furthermore, despite providing 15% of national electricity, nuclear power plants are in operation only in Ontario and New Brunswick.

Figure 2.5 – Provincial electricity generation by source (2019) #

Source: Statistics Canada 2021d, 2021e

Looking at interprovincial and international trade (Table 2.8), it appears that exports from Labrador to Quebec constitute the single largest provincial exchange, associated with the long-term contract on Churchill Falls. Quebec also makes the next largest interprovincial deliveries, mainly to Ontario and New Brunswick. As well, Quebec and Ontario export a large quantity of their production to the U.S., while British Columbia (and, to a lesser extent, Alberta) also trade significant quantities with northwestern U.S. jurisdictions. Relative to their size, Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick are also important net exporters to the U.S.

Table 2.8 – Electricity, interprovincial transfers and U.S. trade (2019) #

Source: Statistics Canada 2021h

It is also worth noting that while electricity exports to the United States were similar in 2019 and 2018, they fell by 15% between 2017 and 2018, after a temporary spike in 2016 and 2017. Changes in export levels from Manitoba and British Columbia account for most of this decrease.

Some provinces’ large share of non-emitting generation capacity makes exports attractive to neighbouring jurisdictions wishing to rapidly decarbonize their electricity sector. This is especially the case for Minnesota (importing from Manitoba) and the New England states and New York for the central and eastern provinces. Hydro-Quebec, the province’s public monopoly, has been the most active in developing these opportunities, securing an export contract with Massachusetts, as well as negotiating with New York. However, additional transmission lines are necessary for these expansions, which continue to face public opposition.